Based on Iraqi chemical warfare agent declarations in their Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure, United Nations Special Commission inspections, and a review of national-level intelligence sources, it is likely that more than 6,000 155mm artillery shells filled with mustard agent were present at the An Nasiriyah SW ASP from about January 15 until approximately February 15, 1991. According to the May 1996 UNSCOM inspection report, Iraq transported these munitions to this storage point just before the start of the Coalition air campaign on January 17, 1991. They remained there while air attacks seriously damaged and/or destroyed approximately 20 munition storage bunkers in this facility. According to Iraq, the munitions were stored in a bunker that was not attacked during the air campaign. There is no evidence, such as indications of decontamination activity, to suggest that a release of chemical agent occurred at An Nasiriyah SW ASP during the air campaign. Also, when US forces occupied this facility during the cease-fire, the multiple chemical warfare agent testing methodologies used at this facility-including M256 kits, CAMs, and Fox reconnaissance vehicles-would have detected mustard contamination. That such contamination was not detected would confirm that these rounds were stored in a facility (or possibly an open area) that was not attacked by Coalition aerial munitions. Iraq declared that they removed these munitions from this ammunition storage point around February 15, 1991, and stored them in the open approximately 5 kilometers west of the Khamisiyah ASP. The UNSCOM team inspected both storage sites, these munitions, and the circumstances under which Iraq transported them. This investigation turned up no evidence that contradicts the UNSCOM conclusion on the transport and storage of these 155mm mustard-filled artillery shells.
It is unlikely that Iraq stored other types of chemical weapon munitions at the An Nasiriayah SW ASP, either during the air campaign or during the post-war occupation. Since Coalition aircraft bombed An Nasiriyah SW ASP and its special bunkers during the first day of the air campaign, Iraq almost certainly realized that this facility was high on the Coalition list of targeting priorities and that any chemical warfare agent stored there was at risk. By February 3, 1991, Coalition attacks struck, seriously damaged, or destroyed all of the bunkers that the intelligence community associated with chemical or biological warfare agent storage. Post-war Iraqi chemical warfare agent declarations and UNSCOM chemical weapons inspections indicate that Iraq initially stored 155mm mustard rounds in standard bunkers, and later, due to the air threat, out in the open near Khamisiyah. Had Iraq stored other chemical or biological warfare agent munitions at An Nasiriyah, it is likely that they would have been removed along with the relocated 155mm mustard artillery shells.
Interviews with chemical warfare agent technicians who performed search operations with specialized testing equipment including Fox vehicles, CAMs, and M256 kits reveal that no evidence of chemical weapons was discovered. Explosive ordnance disposal personnel, who are trained to identify chemical weapons by their physical characteristics, inventoried bunkers to identify munition types and quantities, and did not find chemical weapons. Due to the overwhelming quantities of munitions to be destroyed at this ASP, combat engineers assisted EOD personnel in rigging munitions and bunkers for demolition. They did not find any filled chemical munitions. The one EOD report of a suspected chemical munition was determined to contain high explosive filler by two Fox reconnaissance vehicles. And even though several individuals reported seeing artillery rounds leaking a brownish liquid, or "goo," it is not unusual of for artillery munitions to leak, exude, or be at least partially covered with a brownish substance. For five weeks, US troops conducted demolition operations at the An Nasiriyah SW ASP (from March 2 to April 7, 1991), without wearing mission oriented protective posture gear, yet no one reported or sought medical attention for symptoms of blister or nerve agent exposure. During our interview, one individual did report experiencing an injury, but he noted that he did not declare it nor seek medical treatment at the time of the incident. Further, the symptoms described are inconsistent with nerve or blister agent exposure, but they are indicative of exposure to a riot control agent.
Despite the dedication and technical expertise of the personnel conducting these searches, time and manpower constraints precluded a thorough search of every bunker or open storage revetment in this storage point. Conducting this type of search would have required that every bunker be emptied and every munition container opened. This was not done. The most expedient method entailed opening a random sample of ammunition containers, identifying the munition type, and multiplying this type by the observed quantity. This method is reasonably accurate but is not totally reliable.
Though many of the individuals who conducted the reconnaissance and demolition at An Nasiriyah SW ASP were trained in identifying chemical munitions, there were some personnel whose jobs did not require their knowledge of this specialty. Explosive ordnance disposal personnel and many of the combat engineers understood that munitions markings were an unreliable way of determining chemical warfare agent presence. Some of the other soldiers, however, were unaware of this and would not have been able to correctly identify a chemical munition if it had been present. Regardless of this fact, the lack of injuries or chemical agent detections, assessment by trained EOD and chemical specialists, and corroborating evidence from UNSCOM inspections, intelligence data, and Iraqi declarations, all support that chemical warfare agent was not present at An Nasiriyah SW ASP at the time of US occupation.
Due to the limitations of biological warfare agent sampling technology during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, sampling teams did not conduct an effective search for biological weapons at An Nasiriyah SW ASP. The primary biological warfare agent testing systems used by the 9th Chemical Company (XM2 or PM-10) were too large to be easily transported to this ASP, and were not taken on the March 6, 1991, biological weapons sampling mission. While the soil samples taken did not indicate contamination by known biological warfare agents, the area surveyed covered only a small fraction of the total area of this facility. However, there are two factors that greatly mitigate this observation. First, almost an entire month before the US occupation, air attacks severely damaged or destroyed all four of the 12-frame refrigerated storage bunkers. Any biological weapons stored in these four bunkers would have been exposed to the environment for almost a month which would have either killed the biological agents in question, or resulted in readily observable health effects on the local Iraqi populace, livestock, and US troops. Second, the effects of biological warfare agents thought to be in the Iraqi inventory at that time have well-known characteristics that can be readily and positively identified by medical testing procedures. No incidents of biological warfare agent related illnesses or deaths were identified at this location during the war. Given these facts, and the lack of evidence to the contrary, it is unlikely that biological warfare agents or munitions were present during the US occupation.
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